Padmavati Trailer Released!

 

At first I was just unabashedly excited about this trailer.  A new Bhansali film is an event.  I didn’t know the historical back story in full.  I didn’t know the tragic ending — should have guessed Bhansali would pick a story with a tragic ending.

Then I read Margaret’s reaction to the trailer, and I saw just how demonic and crazed they are making the Muslim king played by Ranveer.  This film could have been told in a very different way than what this trailer shows us.  I’m very conflicted now.  I can’t miss the problems now that she’s pointed out the issues.  I said Ranveer looks like Rasputin.  And that’s on purpose.

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 Maheshinte Prathikaaram – Fahadh Faasil is great in this unconventional revenge story

Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Mahesh’s Revenge) is a delightful Malayalam Comedy-Drama starring Fahadh Faasil.  I think this is actually only my third Fahadh Faasil film, but I have many of his recent films in my watch list.  I loved him in Bangalore Days.  Oh, my gosh when he revealed that huge tattoo!  I hated him for most of the movie, and then he totally won me over in those emotional scenes.  I really didn’t like him in Amen, but then his character was such a nebbish!  He was true to the character, which was a character I didn’t like that much.

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Mahesh, however was such an interesting character.  As was the whole small town setting of the movie.  I loved this peak into the Indukki area of Kerala, which has very tough women.

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Like many Malayalam films, the entire first half meanders it’s way through character introductions and not a lot really happens until almost the interval.  But I didn’t mind at all.  I picked this movie to watch on a day that I had been watching news of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas.  I relished getting away from it all to this beautiful small town in Kerala.

Mahesh has a photo “shop” where he takes passport photos, “Chin up.  Shoulders down.”  He’s a fixture taking photos at every wedding and funeral in town.  He’s not very good.  He has a long distance relationship with a girl he’s had a crush on since childhood, and then she gets another marriage offer from an NRI.  Mahesh is passive.  He doesn’t pursue the girl.  He’s satisfied just taking passport photos.

And then there is an incredible cascade of arguments and spats that starts with a disagreement at a funeral and ends in a brawl.  This whole sequence of one fight leading to a bike accident, to the next argument, and on and on was one of my favorites.  It was very clever.  One person’s ill temper leads to the next situation and so on.

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And finally Mahesh gets drawn into a brawl with some rowdies from a nearby town and gets literally hit in the head — pushed into the metal bar of a rickshaw.  He is so thoroughly trounced that his elderly father has to step in to say “enough” to the rowdy.  Mahesh is humiliated and vows to go shoeless until he gets his revenge — throwing his flip flops away!

And Interval.

That’s the set up.  This passive, happy to just go along in life guy, suddenly wakes up.  And starts to make things happen.  He meets a girl.  He realizes he doesn’t really know how to take pictures, and learns to appreciate photography as art.  And he does get his revenge, eventually.

The gentle story telling makes those couple of intense fight sequences all the more visceral.  They felt very real. The final scuffle was so intense I cried out because I though someone had a broken limb and my son came out of his room to see if I was okay.  “Oh.  It’s just a movie.”  LOL

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What’s delightful is just letting this movie wash over you.  I just loved the meandering gentle story telling.  Learning about all the people in this small town, and especially the spunky girl Mahesh meets.  Young actress Aparna Balamurali was absolutely fantastic as Jimsy!  She’s blunt and speaks up for herself in a very straight forward way.  “Love me if you’re brave enough.”  Both the women in this film totally were able to make their own choices.  Even the ex-girlfriend when presented with an arranged marriage offer is given free choice by her family.

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The supporting cast was all universally great, too.  I particularly liked the performances of Alencier Ley Lopez as Baby, Mahesh’s best friend who owns the next door shop, and Soubin Shahir as Crispin, Baby’s new employee.

Maheshinte Prathikaaram won the Malayalam National Film Award and I can see why.  Director Dileesh Pothan and screenwriter Syam Pushkaran transported me to Kerala for a few blessed hours.  The cinematography and music were very nice too.  There was a flash mob scene with Aparna which I though was a brilliant way to have a big dance number in a natural feeling film like this.  It totally fit her character!

 

Judwaa 2 – A few things should have updated in 20 years

 

I really wanted to like Judwaa 2.  I had a blast watching the first Judwaa earlier in the week, starring Salman Khan and Karishma Kapoor.  While Varun Dhawan gave 1000 percent to the double role, I just didn’t find it as funny.   Jackie Fernandez wasn’t given as much to do as Karishma.   Both she and Taapsee were treated like bimbos.

It was depressing to watch a scene of Varun smacking Jackie’s behind in a store.  Really?  You’re going for that same joke 20 years later?  And Taapsee gets kissed to the point she cries.  Again.  NOT FUNNY.

So much could have been done with this twin story.  It needed a better script.  One set in the 21st century.

Spyder Review – AR Murugadoss scripts a fun thriller for Mahesh Babu (Some Spoilers)

If you haven’t seen Spyder, and want no spoilers before you see it, watch this spoiler free review of the film I recorded moments after seeing it.

I warned you ….. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!!  (but not the whole plot)

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The first thing you should know is that I am a Mahesh Babu fan.  I’ve seen several of his films, and my favorites are probably Athadu (killer disarmed by love!) and Pokiri.  Unfortunately, my first Mahesh Babu film in the theater was last year’s flop Brahmatsovam.   It’s been a long wait for the next Mahesh film, over a year.  I think he took the lessons from that flop, and hooked up with a quality director.  My friend Kartik even sent me a quote from Mahesh about that flop:

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So anticipation has been sky high for this film Spyder.  Expectations, too.  I felt it was a decent film.  Not perfect, but it had some notable sequences that were unique and something fresh I had not seen before.

I walked out of the theater satisfied, and I was surprised that several young men who cared enough to come to the very first 2 p.m. show were disappointed.  Maybe the hype was so high nothing would have been enough.  They said the second half was not a “practical” plot.  I think they wanted a more grounded story, like Pokiri or Athadu.  From the trailer we could see there would be huge boulder rolling down a street crushing cars — and that sequence was certainly in the film.  The last half felt almost like a disaster movie or a superhero film with buildings collapsing and villains wanting to crush people with huge boulders!  So, not realistic, but it didn’t bother me one bit.

Are all those village Telugu dramas with machete fights with one hero fighting 20 men realistic either?

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AR Murugadoss set up a tight cat and mouse thriller between Mahesh and our big villain.  Mahesh is some sort of spy analyst.  I got the sense he worked in the equivalent of the Indian FBI.  He’s monitoring phone conversations ostensibly looking for terrorists and the like, but almost like Minority Report he prides himself on preventing crimes before they happen based on something he’s overheard.  He saves a young girl from being robbed and dishonored by a goon who has convinced her he’s going to marry her out of town.

But then a girl he overhears being scared in an empty house is murdered savagely, along with the woman cop he dispatched to check on her.  And that sends Mahesh into a crisis, and then ultimately on a solo quest to find their killer.

In the first half, we get a tiny little romance track with the adorable Rakul Preet Singh. He overhears her discussing wanting a “blind date” and I think wanting a friends with benefits situation (something that maybe didn’t translate fully in the subtitles).  He stalks her a bit, and she confronts him on it.  But she eventually agrees if he’s not in love with her it will be okay for them to go out.  There is a hilarious scene where she tries to explain this to Mahesh’s mother — who warns Rakul Mahesh is shy, just like his father.  “It took four years of marriage for my son to be born!”  LOL

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There are a few flight of fantasy songs that show their feelings for each other, and a bit of their relationship.  The first song, Boom Boom, I liked much better in the film, than in the teaser snippets we saw.   That’s the first song, and for some reason has all white girl back up dancers!

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When Mahesh goes on a hunt for the killer, he uses a viral video to try to find someone who’s seen him.  This film has a lot of cool use of technology, with scenes of Mahesh monitoring real time cell phone calls, searching through CCTV footage and the like.  It was all very clever, and kind of scary to think how much info these agencies can gather.  There’s a speech in the beginning that the analysts in Mahesh’s office are not to monitor calls for personal reasons, but obviously Mahesh breaks that by listening in and researching Rakul!

The back story of the villain was super creepy and really unique.  I’ve never seen anything like it, as an origin for a sociopath serial killer.  While other reviewers may quibble that this took time away from the main story and slowed down the film, I really liked this segment of the movie.  That kid was a good actor — good at being super creepy and evil!!

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There are actually two villains.  Won’t spoiler why, but they were both good.  Bharat is one, but the big bad is played by S. J. Surya.  He was mostly excellent playing this sociopath killer.  There was on interrogation scene where he really gets crazy and it was over the top for me, but especially this scene above with the mask he was very scary and effective.  Whew!  So good at being evil.

At times in the second half, it felt like he was becoming an over sized super villain like in a comic book movie, though.  Maybe that’s what those young men at my screening were complaining about.  That and the rolling boulder of doom.

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The first half of the film was really good, but there were some logical misses in the plot of the second half.  Rakul not telling Mahesh something crucial because she was in a snit with him was egregious.  Really?  You’re not going to help catch the murderer because you’re mad at your boyfriend?  And there were times Mahesh went alone into a situation when it would have been more realistic if he’d had back up.

There was one segment where he fooled a bunch of ladies who were watching a soap into helping him find a fugitive.  It went on for a long stretch and was pretty over the top, too.  But I do have to acknowledge to Mr. Murugadoss that I have never seen the like!

The CGI in a couple of crucial action scenes was not seamless, but I found the roller coaster fight scene incredible anyway.  Just the concept of it alone!  We get a snippet in the trailer but it was really something to see.  The ending has a building collapsing as Mahesh tries to save people.  That was another part that felt like this was a disaster movie rather than a grounded thriller.  But, still, the film didn’t end with the cliched fight sequence in an abandoned factory.

Mahesh has a preachy speech at the end about humanity and helping others without expecting rewards.  A bit long, and kind of a weird note to end the film on.

There’s also some plot holes as to how Mahesh is just going rogue in his job.  He doesn’t follow privacy rules AT ALL and gets all his buddies to just give him info for his solo investigation.  He’s working around the police and just ignoring their efforts.  He also kills one guy in front of a huge crowd, and seemingly has no repercussions at work or otherwise  It was definitely a take the law into your own hands kind of movie.  I was disturbed at that cold killing scene.  Mahesh’s character just has his own morality compass.  He’s the hero, so he’s always right.  Definitely not an examination of two sides like Vikram Vedha.

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The background score by Harris Jayaraj was incredible.  It kept the tension taught throughout the film.  I have an issue with thrillers that don’t have good enough music to set the mood (Ahem, Malayalam thrillers….),  This score was a standout.

For the most part, AR Murugadoss has given us an exciting thriller with a great villain.  Mahesh just looks so cool in all the action scenes.  He has a couple of great fight segments.  Even the Boom Boom dance number sort of had fight choreography.  I liked Mahesh and Rakul’s chemistry in the songs and their sweet romance, although that isn’t the thrust of the film.  It’s mainly there as some nice comic relief from the darkness in the rest of the film.

Mahesh reacts emotionally to the death of the young girl and police officer in the first part of the film, but other than that does not show the range of emotion that he has in other films.  It wasn’t there in the script for him to do.  The film did have more of a story than a strictly action film like Vivegam, but didn’t pack the emotional punch I usually like in Telugu films.  Still, I left satisfied that I’d had a good rollercoaster ride of my own.

Another unique aspect to the film is that it was filmed in Telugu AND Tamil.  Mahesh is fluent in both languages, so they filmed each scene twice!  I attended the Telugu version (with subtitles, of course.)

If you’re a parent wondering if the film is too violent to bring the whole family, the only violence you really SEE is a couple of impalements.  And Mahesh shooting a guy in the head from a distance.  But there are descriptions of victims being chopped up.

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Spyder – Spoiler Free Review

 

If you want no spoilers at all, watch this video review I made minutes after coming out of the theater.  I saw the very first show in Chicago — one of the first in the US.  I liked the film, even if it’s not perfect.  It’s not my favorite Mahesh Babu film, that would be Pokiri or Athadu maybe, but I left satisfied.  AR Murugadoss, who made one of my favorites, Ghajini, has a compelling script.

The backstory of the villain is especially creepy.  It’s a story I’ve certainly never seen before.  The romance track with Rakul Preet Singh is not the emphasis of the film, but I enjoyed the sweetness of their relationship.

Good dance numbers, but the background score is notably good, and kept the tension going in this enjoyable thriller.

I will be writing and recording another review with spoilers – coming soon.

New Solo Teaser – Dulquer Salmaan as Shekar

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I found this Shekar teaser trailer really interesting.  The look reminds me a bit of Dulquer in Charlie.  We learn the character has a stutter, which I think Dulquer pulls off really well in the small amount of dialogue shown here.

The actress Dhansika who plays Rhadika in this trailer is just stunningly beautiful.  Loved the little bit of their romance shown, and wondering what leads to her tears and him being beat up in the end of the trailer.

Can’t for this film!!

Adam Joan – Prithviraj thriller in Scotland

 

Prithviraj is always great, but this thriller, Adam Joan (Prithviraj’s character’s name) is sometimes too slow paced.  It’s a debut director, Jinu Abraham, and could have used a better editor.

Why is Prithviraj doing to religious based thrillers in the same year?  When the little captive girl was revealed to be half-Jewish in the film, I actually smacked my forehead in the theater.  It’s not laughable as Ezra was, but really, a Satanic cult??!!!

 

This song from the film, EE Kaatttu, was my favorite.  It shows scenes of the romance, and especially the honeymoon tree house that I want to be in RIGHT NOW.  There is another song after the interval that brought the film to a screeching halt, just as the action had started to pick up the pace.

The slow pacing of the film, especially in the second half, is my main issue with the film.

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One standout supporting actor was Narain, who I last saw playing with Prithviraj in Classmates.  One unusual thing, for an Indian film, is that the supporting characters playing the Scottish locals were all actually decent actors.  Often, the non-Indian actors seem like amateurs.  That was a refreshing change of pace.

Mahesh Babu SPYDER full trailer released!

 

Still no subtitles, but Kartik tells me Mahesh is playing the equivalent of an FBI analyst.  The romance track looks so cute!  That boulder shot down the street — THAT I was not expecting.  Hmmm.  I’ll be there first day, first show to see what it’s all about.

Jai Lava Kusa Full Trailer looks Amazing!

 

This Jr NTR trailer looks really good.  I was loving all the teasers of the three characters he plays in the film, Jai (Raavan type), Lava (the nerd) and Kusa (rowdy hero?), but now this full trailer with subtitles shows me how much humor will be in the film.  So funny!

I also love the indication of the big dance numbers, since NTR is a great dancer.  Also, the fact that the characters are related is NOT a big secret to be revealed as it is in so many other double role Indian films.  That’s refreshing.

I may not be able to see this one the first few days it’s out here in Chicago (it’s out on a Thursday here) and it’s killing me.

So excited to see NTR on the big screen for the first time!

Here’s the trailer with subtitles (which don’t work inside my reaction videos.)